VINELAND — Officials with two South Jersey health systems formally signed a merger agreement on Thursday that will create more extensive health-care services for the region.

The merger links the Bridgeton-based South Jersey Health System with the Gloucester County-based Underwood Memorial Health System.

South Jersey Health System is the parent company of South Jersey Healthcare. That company is Cumberland County’s largest private-sector employer and operates the county’s only hospital.

“We are very excited about the merger and confident that uniting as one health system will enable us to enhance the quality, accessibility and convenience of health care for families of southern New Jersey,” South Jersey Healthcare President Chet Kaletkowski said.

Underwood Memorial Health System President Eileen Cardile said the merger allows both companies to look for ways of enhancing cardiovascular, oncology, women’s health, surgery and other services.

“By learning from the best practices of both (health systems), we will develop processes that foster excellence across our new network,” she said. “We believe that together we can achieve new levels of quality and service. Our communities deserve nothing less.”

Officials said in a statement that some of the measures the new health system will include:

  • Increasing the number of outpatient care sites.
  • Build stronger relationships with government agencies regarding public funding initiatives and health-care policies.
  • Give patients access to larger number of health-care providers.

South Jersey Health System operates facilities that include South Jersey Healthcare Regional Medical Center here. The system, which also operates in Atlantic and Salem counties, has about 3,500 employees.

Statistics from the Cumberland County Department of Planning and Development show that South Jersey Health system was, as of June 2011, the county’s largest private-sector employer with 2,850 workers. The county’s next larges private-sector employer as of that date was Walmart with 872 workers. The employment statistics were the latest available numbers.

Underwood Memorial Health System operates Underwood Memorial Hos-pital in Woodbury, Glouces-ter County. The company has about 1,700 employees.

Officials with both health systems said merger talks began in May 2011.

Contact Thomas Barlas:

609-226-9197